Gloria Steinem: My Life on the Road- Book Review

Gloria Steinem is one of those names I recognize as a feminist activist of the 1960 and 70s but without much context. I was bought her book for Christmas and decided to read it before checking her out online- like people did in the olden days…

Apparently, My Life on the Road was Margaret Atwoods book of 2015. There are also quotes on the back from social activitst bell hooks and author and political activist Anne lamott. As well as author James Patterson, actress Jane Fonda and fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, quite an eclectic mix!

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The book is a memoir, and written without a ghost writer by someone that knows how to write making it a breath of fresh air in the autobiography world imo. It starts with a thank you to the doctor who performed her abortion in the 1957, 10 years before it was legal to do so, so Steinem sets her stall out pretty clearly.  But the book doesn’t dwell on that but is more Steinem sharing the wisedom of her years.

If everyone has a full circle of human qualities to complete, then progress lies in the direction we haven’t been.

It really centres around Steinem’s travels around the USA and the rest of the world (especially India) but this isn’t a standard travelogue. She starts with her unconventional early childhood in the 1930 and 50s where her father drove them all over the country keeping her from school. She describes him as kind but unable to settle anywhere, a trait she seemed to inherit.

Yet in that way that we rebel, only to find ourselves in the midst of the familiar. I realized there was a reason why the road felt like home. I was my father’s daughter.

She is a writer, she co-founded ms magazine, and has written several other books. She helped organize the historic 1977 national women’s conference, the significance of which she talks about in the book. But it’s really about the people she met and things she learnt on the way.

The book worked for me because I didn’t need to know too much about her to understand the book or her. Without googling her or asking around I know from the book she has been an activist for human rights, particularly for women and ethnic minorities- and understands the double whammy of racism and sexism that women of ethnic minorities face.

‘We have to be careful about educating Negro girls because they’re aren’t enough educated Negro men to go around’

…when humans are ranked instead of linked, everyone loses.

She includes her experiences in India learning about talking circles and how Ghandi actually learnt his non violent tactics from the women’s movements around him. She spent 30 years travelling around campuses in America talking to students or working on campaigns for political candidates.

This is clearly a woman who likes talking and listening to people from tribal leaders to taxi drivers. I personally prefer to state mindlessly out of the window on journeys and communicate to people solely via email so I find her intriguing.

P1020429Perhaps it would have been nice to have more about the LGBT movements she encountered but she does say that feminist activists back then were more unified than the media would have you believe.I say back then but Steinem (now in her 80’s) is still working, she just wrote this book for example. The cover photo is of a Gloria Steinem in her 20s or 30s and I wonder why the older gloria was left off the front cover relegated to the inside back jacket.
Anyway, after reading Yes Please I ended up liking Amy Poehler a lot less. My overwhelming feeling after reading this book is that I’d quite like Gloria Steinem to be my friend.